Uploaded: Friday, July 31, 2009, 9:27 AM
Still playing to win
From age 50 to 100, these athletes pose fierce competition
|Roger Gentilhomme, 100, is looking forward to beating the pants off of his competitors in the tennis championship at the 2009 National Summer Senior Games, he said this week.
And Randall Stafford, a 50-year-old double-kidney transplant patient and a Stanford Hospital & Clinics physician, is biking in four separate road races at the Games, including the 20-kilometer and 40-kilometer.
Gentilhomme and Stafford could be poster children for the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle. They are two of more than 10,000 senior athletes, ages 50 to 100, competing in 18 medaled and seven demonstration sports at the games Aug. 2 to 15.
Gentilhomme still drives his car to Florida and back to Falmouth, Mass., where he lives six months each year. And he also stays active -- very active.
He often goes gallivanting off and his adult children, Claude and Calla, don't know where he is, causing them some consternation, Claude Gentilhomme said by phone. But he's in great shape, his son added.
Gentilhomme plays tennis for several hours every morning and works out at the gym for an hour or so several times a week, he said. Then, there's square dancing twice a week, playing cards and trips with seniors' groups, bowling and shuffleboard.
"When I get a minute or two doing nothing, I read," he said.
A current favorite?
"The Next Hundred Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century," he said.
Gentilhomme won Senior Games gold medals for his age group in 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007 in tennis and bowling, he said.
"I love life and I look forward to living the next day. I keep fit, eat well, sleep well, and it all contributes to my well-being," he said.
Stafford, whose specialty is internal medicine and preventive cardiology, grew up in the Bay Area and has taken advantage of its open spaces and mountain roads for biking since childhood, he said.
He started bicycling competitively through the Transplant Games after he received a kidney from his brother in 1984. He had a second kidney transplant from his wife, Deirdre, in 2005. He has also competed through the U.S. Cycling Federation, he said.
Stafford bikes to work and back daily and on weekends, putting in 150 miles a week, he said. Last summer he, Deirdre and their two daughters, ages 9 and 13, biked from Eureka to Santa Rosa, with the youngest on a tandem bike, he said.
Physical activity is crucial to the success of transplant patients, he said. Biking helps keep his weight down, since it can balloon from anti-rejection medications, he said.
As a physician, his goal is to set an example for patients to engage in some form of activity, regardless of how mild, he said.
"I try to get people to do anything besides sitting in front of the television," he said.
One demonstration sport offering mild exercise for mind and body takes place at the Palo Alto Lawn Bowls Club, 474 Embarcadero Road, all day on Aug. 3 through 7.
Top men and women players are coming from all over the country, according to Bonny Turner, the club's president.
Donning dress whites, they will sling the hefty balls across a buzz-cut-smooth lawn.
"It's not bocce ball, but it's almost the same -- except that we drink white wine and they drink red wine," quipped Terry Hogan, the club's representative to the Senior Games.
The sport lends itself well to the concept of an active lifestyle to which Baby Boomers aspire. Palo Alto's club has gone from 60 members a decade ago to 170 members, he said.
Peter Knopf, who played in the lawn-bowls national championships in Florida, will take part in the Senior Games events.
"Lawn bowling is always a challenge. There are an infinite array of shots. No two ends are ever the same," he said.
Hogan said the game helps improve balance and mental agility, since lawn bowling is a strategic game. Plus, the grapefruit-sized balls aren't light.
Stafford said the beauty of the Senior Games is the challenge the competition offers athletes regardless of age. The ability for people to compete within their age group offers a level -- and less discouraging -- playing field.
"I look forward to participating in a competition that will be there no matter how old I get. On club rides I sometimes have trouble keeping up with the 25 year olds," he said.
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